You don't have to be an expert adult skier to enjoy the phenomenal slopes and thoughtful amenities at mountain resorts across Colorado. In fact, many of the state's ski properties roll out the red carpet for even the youngest skiers and snowboarders, making a family winter vacation in Colorado incredibly enjoyable for all ages.
Here are three Colorado ski resorts that do an especially good job of keeping pint-sized visitors entertained on and off the trails.
1. Beaver Creek Resort
Posh Beaver Creek offers visitors heated sidewalks in its slopeside Beaver Creek Village and free chocolate chip cookies at the base of the mountain every single afternoon through ski season (reason enough to want to ski the 1,832-acre terrain often).
For young children taking ski lessons, the Buckaroo Express is an eight-person gondola that whisks kids to the beginners' learning area dubbed The Ranch. Here, children as young as 3 learn from upbeat instructors and nosh on healthy meals for lunch. They're also treated to visits from Ripperoo, Vail Resorts' character mascot.
Ski Girls Rock is a program offered three times this season (Christmas, President's Day Weekend, spring break), inspired and designed by Olympic gold medalist and World Alpine Ski Champion Lindsey Vonn. For girls ages 7 to 14 at Beaver Creek, these ski lessons consist of no more than four students per group led by women instructors who focus not only on improving skiing skills, but also empowering girls through the sport and creating opportunities to bond, build confidence, learn teamwork and develop social skills.
Off the slopes, Beaver Creek Village has a huge outdoor ice rink for evening fun on skates, as well as gentle Haymaker Tubing Hill open in the afternoons to children as little as 36 inches tall. It really is a tame tubing hill compared to other Colorado tubing options.
Daily programming throughout the ski season caters to families with events, like glow-stick ski-down-the-mountain extravaganza complete with fireworks, snowshoe tours and story-time sessions.
Certain times of the year, such as Christmas break and spring break, teens have their own activities, too.
Finally, don't miss the Candy Cabin located at the top of Strawberry Park Express Lift and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express Lift, with bulk candy being sold by the pound alongside custom chocolates and classic Pepsi products with real cane sugar.
The four-mountain Aspen/Snowmass resort offers a ton of skiing and boarding fun for families, namely a combined 5,547 acres of skiable terrain across four areas: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands. That means no matter what level your kids are at when it comes to skiing or boarding, there's an ideal spot for them, whether they are "never-evers" or double-black diamond adventurers.
At Buttermilk, 35 percent of the trails are the easiest or mellow green circle trails. Buttermilk also invested millions of dollars into a brand-new children's center and ski school home-base dubbed The Hideout, with direct access to the mountain. A short learning hill, Panda Peak, is served by a slow double chair, and smallest kids in lessons get whisked to the top via a cool, tricked-out snowmobile, where they hold onto a bar and "ski" up.
In addition, Snowmass has a four-lane, lift-served tubing hill designed for ages 4 to 14 at Elk Camp, which is also home to Ullr Nights, activity-filled fun for families every Friday night mid-December to beginning April. Besides the tubing hill, kids (and adults) can have fun making S'mores at the bonfire, ice skating, snow biking, snowshoeing, dancing to live music and playing in the snow playground.
Home base for young children at Snowmass is the Treehouse Kids' Adventure Center, which serves as a child-care facility for babies as young as 8 weeks and a spot to warm up (and play) for preschoolers who may not quite be ready for full-day lessons.
Teens who ski on their own will like the jumps, rails and boxes at the Snowmass terrain parks, though Buttermilk's are a close second.
3. Keystone Resort
At Keystone, kids under age 12 staying with adults at any Keystone Resort property (condominium or hotel) for two nights or more ski for free all season long.
This is one of the most generous (and least complicated) "kids ski free" deals in the industry.
Keystone really caters to children. Kidtopia daily programming at Keystone might include anything from a scavenger hunt and cookie hour to giant snowball launching and ice cream with Ripperoo (yes, the same mascot as Beaver Creek; they're both owned by Vail Resorts). Ripperoo's Saturday afternoon parade through River Run Village is a festive affair, and the annual giant snow fort at the top of Dercum Mountain opens for sliding, exploring and fun photo ops.
Keystone is also home to a popular tubing hill; it's fast and steep, with its own conveyor belt, which makes schlepping your tube up the high hill absolutely painless. Children must be at least 42 inches tall to sample tubing at Adventure Point, but there's a more mellow hill at the Keystone Nordic Center. More off-slope activities for families include two ice rinks (one in River Run Village and one adjacent to Keystone Lodge), sleigh-ride dinners and indoor painting pottery sessions.
Children can take ski lessons with a home base at River Run Village (where most of the family-friendly condominiums are located) or Mountain House, where Camp Keystone is located. This colorful, upbeat facility is adjacent to a small learning hill with a "magic carpet" that uploads young skiers. If you book three or more days of kids' lessons at Camp Keystone, your child can have the same instructor, which is great for continuity and building trust with someone new.
Finally, Keystone is one of the few ski resorts in Colorado that offers night skiing. Have fun making memories with your kiddos under the stars.